Autobiographies have one big advantage when you’re teaching language arts literacy — namely, the students are already interested in the subject and know all about it. As a result, autobiographies offer an opportunity to focus on style, organization, and editing.
And while students may have written about themselves before, you can breathe new life into the assignment by making your students’ autobiographies a lesson in digital literacy. Take a look at our lesson plan for student-created video autobiographies, and find out how you can teach students to extend what they know about good writing to make compelling videos.
Grade and subject recommendations
This assignment would work best for middle and high school language arts literacy classes (though we offer some suggestions for other subjects below).
Here are a few ways to modify a lesson involving autobiography videos to either extend the assignment or adapt it to other subjects:
- Other Subjects: Create a video biography of a historical figure, scientist, musician, artist or other notable person related to your subject.
- Literature: Create a video autobiography for a fictional character rather than a personal one.
- Extension activities: Create an autobiography unit where students not only create a video, but develop a website with images and written texts to accompany their Animoto video.
- Thematic Autobiography: Make an autobiography focused on one specific part of students’ lives, like their history with reading, as English teacher Beth Hughes does in the video below. Or ask students to choose one major life event and develop a video story about it.
Style: Back to School
Song: “Coquetry” by McKenzie Stubbert
Session 1: Discuss organization in storytelling. Let students know they’ll be creating a video autobiography using Animoto. Videos must be under five minutes and share a few of the most important events in the students’ lives. Students must show “pre-writing” for their video in the form of a storyboard, indicating events or images they plan to include. Give students time in class to work on their storyboards, and let them research images for their video in class if possible. Encourage students to bring in materials for their video the next day (if possible, you could allow them to upload images and video clips to folders in Dropbox or using Google Drive).
Questions for discussion:
- What are some ways to organize a story?
- How do different media require different storytelling techniques — for example, how is a video different from a written story?
Session 2: If necessary, review how to use Animoto. Then, have students work individually to build their Animoto autobiographies based on the storyboards they created the day before. Remind them to select music that’s meaningful to them, and to choose a style that helps them tell their story.
Session 3: Discuss how to make an effective video (i.e. keeps attention, follows a logical progression, has a clear purpose, etc.) Break students into groups and let them review each other’s videos for possible edits. Give students your rubric, so they can analyze the videos based on the assignment criteria. Then ask students to create a copy of their original video in Animoto. They should re-label the copy so it indicates that it’s the final draft version of their video. Be sure to give them time to make edits based on what they learned in their peer review group.
After the assignment
Assessment: Collect storyboards along with both rough and final drafts of the video for assessment based on your rubric.